Farmer rebuilds after deadly barn fire

Watch for these dangerous conditions in your barn

Photos from Farm Mutual Reinsurance Plan Inc., article by Better Farming staff

In the April edition of Better Farming, the Aalbers family of Rosslyn shared their experiences in rebuilding their dairy operation after a fire destroyed their barn and herd. The fire marshal’s investigator ruled the blaze accidental, “which means electrical,” Peter Aalbers said.

Indeed, electrical failures explain nearly half of barn fires where causes can be determined, according to recent insurance industry and Ontario government research. In order to help reduce the risk of such failures, industry experts suggest conducting periodic inspections of barns for potential dangers.

Some municipal fire departments offer inspections and emergency planning. Insurance companies also work with clients to conduct risk assessments. Alternatively, farmers can borrow and use FLIR (heat sensing) modules from Farm & Food Care Ontario. Farmers may wish to consult a knowledgeable electrical contractor about potential fire hazards.

The photos below identify some potentially hazardous conditions to watch for when conducting inspections. Be sure to consult with industry experts as needed to minimize your risks.

barn wiring

Watch for damage to wiring throughout the barn. Here, the splitters have been corroded and need to be replaced.

breaker panels

Dust and cobwebs can accumulate in breaker panels. These panels should be cleaned periodically to reduce the risk of electrical fires.

light bulbs

Keep a safe distance between lighting and flammable materials like straw. Note, too, the cobwebs on the light bulb.

barn wiring

Monitor all electrical cords, particularly at connections, for overheating. Note the damage on the fan cover.

barn wiring

Be sure to replace all electrical components with parts that comply with safety codes. Here, bolts have been used in place of fuses, which can lead to dangerous conditions.

thermal imaging

Beyond visual inspections for potential fire risks, thermal imaging cameras can be used to examine potential electrical failures. The red and yellow sections indicate warmer temperatures resulting from a loose connection.

Insurance company staff can conduct site inspections with thermal imaging cameras to highlight potential risks in barns. Alternatively, farmers can borrow equipment through the aforementioned Farm & Food Care Ontario program. BF

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